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Half fact, half fiction

April 22, 2013

By Barry Tucker

Could Australia be confronted with a military intervention to sort out its political malady, caused by the dreaded Duopoly?

The Duopoly is the two-party dominance of political thinking; one party of progressive socialists, one of Liberal conservatives. One basically represents the working class; the other represents the business class. Neither seems capable of governing for the nation as a whole, or of getting along together.

Minor parties and Independents have emerged since 1977 (putting the DLP aside, because that was a split within Labor ranks), but none has managed to gain and hold a significant slice of the action. At present, five Independents hold the balance of power in the Lower House and the Greens allow the government to control the Senate (a relationship that will end with the 14 September, 2013 poll).

The federal Opposition has long regarded the government as illegitimate because the Prime Minister was changed by a Right-wing coup within the Labor party, followed by a tie in a federal election, followed by a hung parliament effectively controlled by Independents.

Every Opposition devotes itself to changing the government – that’s the madness built into the Westminster system of parliamentary representation. It leads to a constantly annoying, rambunctious charade of obstruction, contempt and ridicule designed to shame the government (or the Opposition) in the eyes of the electorate. An open debate of policy and alternative policy is not part of the agenda.

Since Labor came to power in 2007 there has been an unholy alliance between the Liberal party, the mining companies (one in particular) and the Rupert Murdoch owned News Limited. While the Liberal party represents industry and business (as I wrote above), the alliance is an unholy one because the democratic process, especially the vital Freedom of the Press, has been perverted to give the Liberal party an advantage in winning government.

So, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the people’s democracy is in danger of being hijacked to serve the interests of industry and business.

I’m suggesting the military could act because of long-running disputes between Ministers of Defence and the military forces; problems of security on our borders (at sea and in major airports); physical abuse and sexual abuse cases; problems building submarines; arguments over a suitable fighter plane (always contentious since the decision to buy the F-111); funding; the basing of US forces in the Northern Territory and governments dragging our forces into action in Afghanistan, Iraq, Afghanistan again and now possibly North Korea and/or Syria (use of chemical weapons being the trigger for Syria).

All of the above is fact. I dealt with this early in 1977, but I treated it as fiction in a short novel I titled Joe Kane.

Joe Kane was a political journalist who had been agitating for the formation of a middle-of-the-road political party to break the nexus between Liberal and Labor. Yes, there was a bit of autobiography in there.

I had returned from working overseas in Winter, 1975, and the always controversial Whitlam Labor government was sacked by Governor-General Kerr in November of that year. Like at least half of the country, I stewed over that for about a year while the country went through its seasonal switch from Left- to Right-wing political ideology – the usual predictable shit fight.

In about March 1977 I began writing Joe Kane. Essentially, the military was having an almighty row with the government over funding and the choice of materiel, or assets, which it now terms “enablers”. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were also sick of Left-Right politics (you’d think that marching tune would suit them perfectly) and decided the whole system needed a shake-up. Of course, I had decided the political system needed an overhaul and chose the armed forces to kick it off.

So there was a coup. But the military didn’t want to retain power and Joe Kane was asked to take over and install a government with middle-of-the-road policies (and give the military what it wanted, obviously). I don’t know what was supposed to happen in ensuing years.

It was a simplistic plot, based on my frustration with the Duopoly (a feeling that is shared by many Australians) and it never got beyond the first draft of a two-fingered typist (I’ve since learnt to touch type – much more efficient). It was little more than an outline of the major plot items and it needed more development, dialogue and fleshing out of the characters. I hadn’t even bothered to write the “compulsory” sex scene!

Here’s the punch line. A few months after finishing the first draft, The Australian Democrats was launched, with Don Chipp as convenor. It was exactly the kind of middle-of-the-road approach my unfinished novel had called for. If I had continued developing and polishing the plot it would have been ready for publishing at about the same time the Democrats launched. What a coup that would have been!

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